Nebraska National Forest – Chadron, Nebraska - Atlas Obscura

Nebraska National Forest

America's largest man-made forest was planted in an effort to bring back the past. 


Can trees grow in the great plains? A U.S. National Forest in Nebraska says yes, if someone plants it!

Today the Nebraska National Forest is made up of 141,864 acres of ponderosa pine and grassy plains but this was not always the case. In 1902 the area was simply a flat plain, but botanist Charles E. Bessey had a hunch that the area must have had a natural forest at some point in the past. Acting on this suspicion, Bessey decided to attempt to recreate his vision of the past on the vast Great Plains of what are now Thomas and Blaine counties, as well as the nearby Dawes and Sioux counties. After the man-made forest took root, Bessey found that he had created a national timber reserve in one of the most unlikely spots in the country.

Thanks to Bessey’s efforts, the Nebraska National Forest is now a lush 20,000-acre wood, the largest human-planted forest in the United States. Part of the National Forest system since the 1950’s, the forest’s current nursery supplies up to three million seedlings per year. 

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